The Odd Couple of the Digital Age

It used to be that IT market research could be segmented into tidy categories of technology types written for technology professionals. Analysts looked at technology through the lens of IT and the distinct categories it served. Working with Human Resources (HR) or other business-aligned professionals for advice and perspective was not needed, as the focus remained strictly on technology as a service to the company. Likewise, the practice of IT interfacing with HR and other parts of the business was distinct, marked by requirements gathering, support services, and implementation activities. It was a time when business units, especially HR, played little role in technology strategy.

As technology became more accessible and commercialized, individuals outside of IT started to make their own technology choices. Business units and individuals worked around normal IT channels to find and use technologies that supported their work. Soon, the command and control of IT became chaos. The digital landscape became balkanized environments pocketed with technology overlaps, waste, risks, and operational inefficiencies. The net effect of this chaos added stress to the well-being of the company, its employees, and customers.

Wrangling the technology chaos

Digital transformation – wrangling the technology chaos through coordinated governance and modernized platforms. Digital transformation has been upon us long enough to claim some maturity and even some remarkable successes. A notable promise of digital transformation is that it will mitigate the cultural and human factors of using technology at work. In other words, it’s not enough to modernize the tools, the technology should improve employee engagement and effectiveness at work.  Until now, engagement and effectiveness have been areas of concern left to HR and business leaders.

With maturity comes new behavior. One hallmark of digital transformation is the elevation of technology strategy as a business strategy. A characteristic deeply embedded in driving company goals and success. A digital enterprise is the outcome of a transformed mindset. A mindset that is concerned with the degree to which an enterprise leverages digital to conduct its business. The digital enterprise mindset touches every aspect of the organization, including its human factors. A good digital enterprise mindset significantly enhances people’s ability to conduct work effectively, expand customer loyalty, and lead with confidence.

Technology should go to employees, not employees going to technology

Now that digital transformation is being accelerated by the pandemic, approaches to digital deployment must transform too. This transformation emphasizes the need for digital management, not digital managers. Digital management is the responsibility of those who conduct business as well as technologists. Each group needs some aptitude in the other’s domain. Technologists need to understand the business, and the business needs to understand technology.

IT and HR a match for the digital enterprise

The digital enterprise approach is human- and technology-oriented at the same time. HR and IT cannot exist as separate practices in the digital enterprise. They need to work in tandem to create working experiences and environments that not only drive business success but also support human factors of work. Coordination of people, skills, and knowledge is nurtured through a partnership between IT and HR.

Just as the digital enterprise shifts its mindset, technology market researchers’ mindsets need to shift as well. The nifty technological categories that we filter our thinking through needs to take on the broader perspective of digital for the business. Categories such as cybersecurity, line of business applications, or content and collaboration software, must also be studied for their impact on the enterprise, the people, and business goals.  How technology makes people more effective at their jobs, enhances their experiences, or engages them means evaluating technology through the lens of the human factors and business outcomes.

The time has come to broaden technology’s horizons beyond the walls of the IT department. To embrace digital as a business strategy, accounting for human and cultural factors of transformation. As working life changes in the coming years, Analysts and IT must collaborate with HR and other business professionals for advice and perspective.

Disclosure

The views and opinions in this analysis are my own and do not represent positions or opinions of The Analyst Syndicate. Read more on the Disclosure Policy.